Guinevere Turner [Interview]

Today’s interview is about 5 years in the making, folks! Actually, it might be more reasonable to say about 20 years in the making. I first new about Guinevere Turner when I was just a young teenage lad who was obsessed with independent films in the 90’s and was DEFINITELY going to go to film school. I studied the works of Kevin Smith, Richard Linklater, and more during these internet free days, in the hopes of discovering more of these indie gems. And I found one in Turner. Her 1994 film Go Fish is still hands down one of the finest films to come from this period, and one of the finest period.

And in the decades to follow, Guinevere has proven herself to be one of the best in the game. Whether she is on screen, behind the camera, or penning the next great screen story, she is a mesmerizing figure in the world of cinema and beyond. I learned in this interview that it took 6 attempts to get the now classic 2000 film American Psycho a workable adaptation, and I dare say that the landing was perfectly stuck with Turner and her reoccurring working partner Mary Holland penning this amazing story.

I had reached out to Turner about 5 years ago to have the honor of having her on the site, but schedules conflicted and it just hadn’t happened. But, being the persistent and adoring fan that I am first, I never wanted to give up. And it almost seems fateful that we were able to talk to her now, after quite a bit has “changed” in the world of women in the film world. I parenthesis change because, I’m not certain that real change has occurred, and that more needs to be done. But nevertheless, I have known since my youth that Guinevere Turner was a strong woman working in the man’s world that is filmmaking. Although, I never though of her work in such a way, as I believe I was simply ignorant to the facts and entirely unaware of what was happening. But, what I do know is that Guinevere Turner was and is an amazingly talented individual who has been empowering and showcasing women in film for the last three decades. It’s not new to her. This is and has been what she does. And she does it damn well.

So after all this time, I finally got to get some words from the amazing Guinevere Turner. We discuss a lot of the things I’ve already mentioned, but obviously far more eloquently and in depth than I can really explain. We are so proud and fortunate to have this amazing filmmaker with us today, in an interview that will always be a highlight not only in the TWS world, but in my own as well.

So Ladies and Gentlemen, please enjoy some amazing words from the brilliant Guinevere Turner!

When did you first realize that you had a passion for the world of film, both behind and in front of the camera? Did it come from an early age, or did you just sort of find yourself in this world one day?

I’ve always loved film – grew up watching a lot of old movies from the 40’s and 50’s and fell in love with soft focus close ups of divas like Bette Davis and Lauren Bacall. But I didn’t think I would make films, I just wanted to be a movie star. When we made my first film Go Fish, it was out of a need for representation rather than an urge to make film (or to act).  I just recognized it as a medium people pay attention to. And then… I was off and running in a world I never thought I’d be in. I thought I was going to write novels! (I still will, just you wait.)

Your project with frequent collaborator and fellow genius of the cinema, Mary Harron, American Psycho, is absolutely one of my all time favorite films of all time. It has been 18 years since the film was released, and it is absolutely insane how relevant it remains to this very day. When you were working on adapting Bret Easton Ellis’s novel for the screen, what would you say was your biggest concern? What did you feel you absolutely needed to accomplish to turn this story into a visual medium?

Mary and I were the 6th writers to tackle the adaptation of the book and as such we felt immense pressure to be the ones who got it right. Our concerns/challenges were that the book is so internal, and he doesn’t ever really tell anyone what’s going on in his head. We fought against the use of voice over for a while, and then gave in (I think it works!), and we loved the music chapters in the book but couldn’t figure out how to get them into the movie. (In the book they function more as straight music reviews and are devoid of any plot). It was a good day when we figured out that we’d have him start to go on a tear about a particular record when he was in a killing mood. By the time you get to the scene where he kills my character (Whitney Houston is his subject), you should be thinking “OH shit, they are going to die.”

Guinevere Turner & Mary Holland on the set of Charlie Says…coming soon!

Regular readers here at TWS know that we are obsessed with the world that filmmaker Kevin Smith has created, known as the View Askewinverse. And true fans know that you have had a MAJOR influence on the that world. For those who are un aware, can you tell us about your involvement in such works like Chasing Amy and Dogma? How did this come about?

I met Kevin and his producer Scott Mosier at Sundance in 1994 – they were there with Clerks and I was there with Go Fish. We had the same film rep, John Pierson, and we had weirdly similar movies – black and white super talky movies with their own little universe. We became fast friends and Kevin being Kevin he asked a lot of bold and direct questions about lesbians. Rumor has it that Scott had a crush on me and Kevin thought that would make a great movie. I read his first draft of Chasing Amy and I laughed but I said Oh Boy lesbians are going to hate this. I was wrong! Chasing Amy was a hit with lesbians and non-lesbians a like, and Dogma was his next up so he put me in it. That was when Matt and Ben had just skyrocketed to fame – it was a trip to see hordes of screaming fans behind barriers on the set.

Throughout your extremely impressive career, you have manage to wear a plethora of proverbial hats in the world of film and television. So, in your personal opinion, what do you find to be your favorite duty in your chosen profession?

Well here’s the thing: I’m best at writing (so far). It’s the thing I am most confident about my abilities in. So that comes naturally, and I don’t get nervous. But I do get bored with the solitary life, and so its great that I get to act now and then. I am less confident about my acting, and I do get nervous (though less so as I get older), but I love it, and I love being on sets, and learning from other actors, and just being challenged in that way in general. As for directing, I am learning! The intensity and pressure of it I also adore. It’s exciting, energizing, high stakes in the sense that you have to keep making decisions and problem solving non stop. I live for that shit!

There has been a lot of focus on women in the world of filmmaking, with a push to get more women behind the camera, in writing rooms, etc. And for an outsider looking in, I really have no way of knowing if the movement has been working, or are the main predatory like players in the game just lying low for the moment and putting out a feel good story in the news every once in a while? I’ve honestly been wondering what your take on the entire situation has been since things really got kicked into gear?

“Judge” Guinevere Turner on the set of Charlie Says, setting up shop in the Judge’s Chambers.

It’s intense! I mean I am so happy that people are coming forward, that consequences are being felt, that women like Ava Duvernay are giving all kinds of women a chance, that Asia Argento is not afraid to talk openly at Cannes about being raped. I can’t say that “happy” is the right word. There are a lot of painful truths coming out, and things that can’t be undone, lives that can’t be un-ruined. As much as its a good moment for women, it can be exhaustingly sad to witness on a daily basis. Especially knowing that this avalanche means there is so much more. (I always knew that.) Its funny to me when people say about me and Mary “Oh its a really smart move for you two to be making [Charlie Says] right now. A woman writer and a woman director, a story about women…” and I’m thinking “WTF?! We’ve always been women making stories about women or relevant to women – this isn’t some strategic move. Listen to this:  we actually care.”

When you look back on your brilliant career in both independent and mainstream cinema and television, what would you say you are most proud of? What would you want people to look back and think about your body of work, say, 100 years from now?

Oh shit I don’t know. I’m proud of it all and I’m not even halfway done! This new one, Charlie Says, outta be one for the books! Ask me this again when I’m 80.

I am intrigued by a web series you are currently involved in that sounds very compelling, called “Fuck, Yes”. What can you tell us about this series, and how can our readers find it?

You can watch it, and the other films in the series, here:

http://www.weareo.tv/presents/fckyes

It’s a great little series about consent in a sexual context, and playful and sexy about different scenarios in which we ask for consent, and how we ask. Mine is me with a a much younger girlfriend who has a “sexual bucket list”. Its funny.

What else does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to share with our readers?

The future holds:  Charlie Says, a film about the women who killed for Charles Manson and their time in prison:

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1759744/?ref_=nv_sr_1

Should be done by end of summer.  (I wrote it, Mary Harron directed it)

I wrote a comedic horror script called “Don’t Come Over with me as a romance novelist with writer’s block going nuts in her apartment. We are looking for financing (anyone out there?).

I have several TV show ideas I’d like to see happen – I’m honing those ideas, deciding what I think will work. The plan: create TV show, run TV show, direct on TV show, have cred as more than a short film director, direct features, live happily ever after.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

This morning I was thinking about how I love the word ruminate, and the act of rumination, but that when I learned the word origin, from this, a “ruminant” animal:

“an even-toed ungulate mammal that chews the cud regurgitated from its rumen. The ruminants comprise the cattle, sheep, antelopes, deer, giraffes, and their relatives.”

I felt disappointed because chewing regurgitated cud is just kind of gross. I thought to myself, “Why does this bother me?” and then I thought “I guess it’s because cows aren’t known as sexy thinkers.” This made me laugh out loud for some reason. Yes, I live alone, and this is why – so my uninterrupted thoughts can be free to wander to such places.

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Zackary Adler [Interview]


Today’s interview subject is a man who I was quite pleasantly surprised to get to know. I knew of Zackary Adler as the man who brought us the delightful indie gem of a film that I once saw on Netflix and decided quickly that it was amazing. That film was the 2006 indie romcom I’m Reed Fish, starring Jay Baruchel and Alex Bledel and a plethora of other brilliant actors. The film is one of the most endearing works of indie art I have ever seen, and thoroughly enjoyed it to a great extent.

But, who exactly is this Zackary Adler? In just a few minutes of research, you may realize that he has a body of work that will definitely surprise you. While one would expect a catalog with the same sort of sensibilities as the likes of a darling little film like I’m Reed Fish, one would be absolutely and entirely wrong! Adler is a filmmaker who has had a career that defies genres and moves in whatever direction he wants in order to tell a compelling tale! He has made waves in the world of Britain’s crime cinema, with the Ray franchise, and pulls no punches (will, a lot of punches are given, actually) in one of his latest releases, Rise of the Foot Soldier 3: The Pat Tate Story.

Yes, Zackary Adler did not quite turn out to be as we thought he would be. He turned out to be even better! He is a versatile filmmaker with so much to share with the world, and we are so damn fortunate that he was willing to share a few words with us today. So Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my pleasure to share with you all some amazing words from one of today’s finest filmmakers, the great Zackary Adler!

When did you decide that you wanted to join the world of filmmaking? Was it an early passion that you can always remember having? Or was it a later in life discovery?

Oh it was early.  I was maybe thirteen or fourteen.  I had read a script that a family member had written and it was made into a movie and I remember thinking that the script was much better then the film.  I was so disappointed in the movie and it was a pivotal moment for me.

What was the very first gig you can remember having in the film industry? And did that experience help shape who you would become as a filmmaker? 

My first gig was in Camden town working for a music video company.  It made me want to be a director.  It was a small production company that was doing these amazing videos for Sinead O’Conner and U2 and other great bands.  It was the 90’s so it was really fun and hedonistic.  The director would listen to a song and come up with an idea and then we would all work to actualize it.  I was hooked.  Completely hooked on the process of bringing an idea to life on screen.  And then I fell in love with film as an art and as a medium.  I have never done anything else since really.

Your 2006 film I’m Reed Fish is an absolutely wonderful film that I continue to hold at a very high regard. I’m curious as to what the origins of this tale might have been? And how was it decided for the likes of Jay Baruchel to play the titular character?

Thank you! That’s kind of you to say.  There was a real guy named Reed Fish who wrote it as his life story.  Jay Baruchel had done a lot of TV in Canada and he just had done this brilliant turn with a small role in Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby and we met via our agents and I immediately loved him for the role.  He was great in it and has gone on from strength to strength.

You’ve had some great success not only in the world of comedy and drama, but also in the action/thriller genres as well. I’m always curious to ask filmmakers this question: What do you find to be the commonality in when shifting from one genre to the other? In your own work, what would you say every good film should have, regardless of its categorization?

I love all genres of film. For me it is mostly about whether or not it’s a good story told in the right way.  Is it authentic? Is it interesting? Entertaining?  Does it look at something in a new way?  These are the things I ask in my own work and when I am watching and exploring the work of others.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to share with our readers?

I really don’t know what the future will hold for me.  My twenties were pretty rocky and about ten years ago I made a paradigm shift.  Basically my life had been really crazy and dark and my film work was really light so I decided to flip it… and I did! My life since has been far brighter and my work has been mostly dark and violent.  It’s been brilliant but this last month something happened.  My 9 year old daughter had a heart problem and we spent about a month in hospital. She is totally fine now but she was critical for a while and that experience changed me.  My time with her in the pediatric ICU and the pediatric transplant wing changed me.  The things I saw and heard and felt gave me a new appreciation for courage and love and a newfound awe of our capacity as humans to survive and fight, to meet challenges and to come together.  The old dark to light flip won’t really cut it anymore for me so I need to develop some projects that reflect that creatively.

What was the last thing that made you smile? 

Stanley.  Stanley is now how I refer to my wife and my daughter when I am addressing both of them.  As in “I love you Stanley” or “Please be quiet Stanley”.   Stanley always makes me smile…. That and this really fantastic hamster video I saw on Instagram this morning.

Check out this trailer for one of Zackary’s latest films, Rise of the Foot Soldier 3: The Pat Tate Story:

New Music Tuesday: Rocket 3: What’s the Frequency [Album]

 

Oh, where is the time going? Has it really been four years since we last visited the world of the indie-pop sensation that is Rocket 3? It is certainly a tough task to imagine such a possibility when I think about the fact that their debut album, Burn, is still in regularly rotation in my life. I couldn’t imagine going too long without hearing the wonderful front woman, Ramune Nagisetty, singing every so sweetly about ever so wonderful things. But alas, time has moved on, and with that move has come an all new record from our favorite feel-good and empowering trio.

On their sophomore release, What’s the Frequency, Rocket 3 brings us a whole new batch of amazing tracks featuring their classic pop-sensibilities with a noticeable, and well deserved, since of accomplishment for what they have already given to the world. They know what they are capable of, and they continue to prove it by perfecting the brilliant sound they have already manufactured so wonderfully. Because, with this release, they have a bit of a secret weapon to add to the mix….the saxophone!

Yes, the brilliant saxophonist Gavin Duffy has been thrown in the mix, and has only added to the brilliance that is Rocket 3. This is clearly evident in what may be the album’s best, and definitely catchiest, track “Hip Shot” that I could (and have) seriously put on repeat for an unprecedented amount of play throughs, and you know, just walk around and breath! Within this singular track we even get a perfect sax solo from Duffy, which I’ve always said we could totally use more of in this world!

From beginning to end, What’s the Frequency is an overall perfect album. From the jingle-jangely opening track “I Choose Love”, right down to the closing track that is all about goodbyes known as “Evershine”, Rocket 3 has only continued to prove why they are a mainstay in the world of indie-pop and they are going to be around giving way good vibes for quite some time. And we should be damn thankful that they are willing to do so!

Rocket 3’s What’s The Frequency will be available wherever you get your music on July 28th. Check out the band’s website for details!

Jim Kouf [Interview]

Today we have another appearance of an absolute LEGEND here today for you fine readers! We have some pretty amazing words from the brilliant writer, director, and producer Jim Kouf. Jim has had a career spanning 40 years that has brought us so much joy in so many different ways. No matter what you would consider to be your preferred form of art and/or entertainment, Jim has been there throughout the years to help bring it to the world.

Whether it is writing blockbuster films you know and love like Rush Hour, National Treasure, Stakeout & it’s subsequent sequel Another Stakeout, or producing one of the most popular television series of recent years, the incredible Grimm, this man has a creative mind that the world has been so fortunate to have had even the slightest insight to over the years. And as we are so happy to regularly find out amongst our interview subjects…he’s a hell of a nice guy! Jim was kind enough to tell us how he started in the world of show business, and help us dissect some of his greatest successes in the world of film and television.

In this wonderful interview, we will speak with Jim about everything from chemistry, to fairytales, to his work with the legendary hip hop artist and poet Tupac Shakur, and just so much more. So, without further rambling, please allow me to introduce the brilliant Jim Kouf!

When did you first realize that you wanted to join the world of filmmaking and storytelling? Was it a passion you have always had? Or did you just find yourself in this business one day?

I had a camera in my hand from about the time I was six or seven.  I always loved taking photographs.  I transitioned to bigger and better cameras over the years.  Then to an 8mm camera.  Then started making films in High School.  My first film was for my chemistry class.   I convinced my teacher to let me do a term film instead of a term paper.  I think he was tired of reading term papers so he agreed.  My film was about the day in the life of three brothers and all the chemistry they encountered  which included hunting (which was my girlfriend dressed as a big dog), surfing and going to a party where the drug of choice was a large quantity of lettuce juice, which I discovered through some research, was a mild narcotic.  This was 1968.  The film included live action and animation.  I didn’t know how to do animation, but I figured it out well enough to animate a few sequences; like the chemical reactions of a bullet coming out of a rifle barrel when the gunfire ignites, wax and water on a surfboard while surfing, and the strange chemical composition of lettuce juice.  The soundtrack had to be created on a reel to reel tape, then lined up with the film so both the projector and tape player could be turned on at the same time for the sound to sync.  It always seemed to be off by about a half a second, like a badly dubbed foreign film.  Anyway, the film received great acclaim (because not many students were making films in high school back in the sixties) and I showed it to all the chemistry classes, then all the English classes.

And this was at Burbank High School, in Burbank, CA where Disney, Warner Brothers, Universal Studios are all located.  But did any of my high school councilors suggest that I go into the movie business?  No.  Never mentioned.  I think the only film schools at the time were at USC, UCLA and NYU.  So I didn’t even realize you could get a degree in film making.

But the film making idea really hit me when I was a senior in high school.  I took a date to see The Wild Bunch.  The film was almost sold out so we had to sit in the front row.  And it was not like any movie I’d ever seen.  It was mind-blowing at the time because of the violence.  It was 1969 if I remember correctly.   And I was jolted.  I remember leaving the theater and saying to myself, “That’s what I want to do for a living.”

But I had no idea how to go about doing that that or what it even meant to be a film maker.  So I tried my hand at another 8mm film, then a 16mm.  But I never wrote anything down.  The stories were all in my head.  I didn’t know that films were scripted.  I had never seen a script.

Anyway, I headed north to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and I got an English degree with a minor in History.  Actually that was probably a better choice for becoming a writer.  As part of my English major, I had a playwriting class and discovered that I loved it and pretty much got straight A’s for the plays I wrote.  They were not great plays, but they were good enough for college.  And it gave me the idea that I could possibly be a writer.  So after graduation, I headed back to Burbank with the intention of breaking into the film business.  I really had no idea what I was doing or how I was going to do it.  I was just determined that I would.  And I guess I figured it out.  I was making a living at it within about two years.

In 1997 you wrote, directed, and got an absolutely amazing performance out of the late hip hop icon Tupac Shakur with the film Gang Related. This film has been a staple to me in the world of cop dramas, and is one I can always go back to no matter how much time may go by. Where did this story come from? What inspired you to tell this very dark story?

Before I answer this I’d like to say Tupac was great to work with.  He really wanted acting to be his way out of the music world, which was controlling his life at the time.  He was also going to score the movie, but was killed 10 days after we finished shooting.  He was a great guy.  We had a lot of fun on set.  And Gang Related had one of the best casts I’ve ever worked with.

I had done a few cop movies, like Stakeout and The Hidden.  And the cops were the good guys.  I was toying with the idea of reality and memory and how they can be manipulated.  And crime is where reality and memory are always tested.  I think of Gang Related as grim farce.  It’s about a couple cops who think they have a handle on how to clean up the streets by taking down drug dealers, making a little profit on the side, and blaming it on a “gang related” murder.  At the time “gang related” was the explanation for a lot of killing on the streets.  No one ever expects a gang related murder to be solved.  After all, it’s just gangbangers killing gangbangers.  And everyone seemed to accept that as an unsolvable explanation of murder on the streets.

So anyway, when they kill a DEA undercover cop instead of a drug dealer their world is turned upside down.  Now they need a “real” killer, someone to take the fall for their killing because the DEA is all over it.  So they grab a drunk and start to recreate the killing in the mind of an innocent.  This is where I wanted to explore how memory could be manipulated.  Given enough information, photographs and recreated participation, the memory will log everything as reality. And the innocent guy believes he actually did the crime and he confesses.  Which surprises everyone.  No one expected someone to plead guilty.  And this eventually leads to his salvation.

 

In more recent years, you have managed to put out one of the most original and captivating television series of modern times, with the incredible series Grimm. Hailing from the Northwest, just about every actor and filmmaker I know in the Portland area has had some involvement with this program. With that being said, I am curious to know what exactly was the decision point behind making the City of Roses the location to tell these modern Grimm tales? Is there any significance to choosing Portland as a setting?

The Grimm series is based on fairy tales.  And the Grimm fairy tales are dark and brooding and scary and violent.  And a lot of them take place in dark, dank forests.  And for the Grimm Brothers that forest would have been the Black Forest of Germany.  So I knew the area around Portland and realized it would be the perfect place to set the series.  It had a city, mountains, rivers, and forests.  And rain.  We loved the rain.  We actually set the pilot script in Portland.  And they had a tax credit so NBC was all in from the beginning.

Your range has a writer is incredibly impressive. Whether it’s an action/adventure blockbuster like National Treasure, or the more family friendly films like Snow Dogs and Operation Dumbo Drop, to an action comedy like Rush Hour, your knack for storytelling is absolutely phenomenal. In your obvious professional opinion, what are some similar traits amongst the stories that you like to tell? While they are obviously different in context, is there anything you find to be true in and out of each project you work on?

I approach every story through the characters, what they want, how they get it, what happens when they do and how it changes their lives.  To me, whether it’s comedy, drama, action, science fiction or horror, it’s still about character.  I really don’t think in terms of genre.  It’s just a different set of rules for the reality of that particular story.    But you have to make sure you know what the rules are and stick to them.   And all the characters have to be grounded in a reality they believe in.  And I always try to have some comedy in even the darkest stories.  Comedy helps connect an audience to a character.

On the set of Disorganized Crime (1989)

 

And when it comes to your own enjoyment, what genre of a story do you find the most interesting to tell? If so compelled to pick only one, what would you consider to be your favorite genre to write for?

It’s all about the characters.  And the world they have to survive in.  And I don’t want to bore anybody.  So I try to keep things moving.  I like writing motivated people, good or bad.  And I like pressure cooker plots.  They’re fun to write.

When you look back on your incredibly successful career thus far, what would you say you the most proud of as an artist?

I was able to survive for forty years as a writer.   And I got to produce and direct as well.  And I met my wife and Producing partner, Lynn, and we had a bunch of great kids.  And we had a lot of fun along the way.  It’s been a great adventure.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

I’m still working on a bunch of projects.  Either as writer or Producer or both.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

You asking me to do this.

As avid readers know sometimes are guests are so kind to provide in wonderful inside access to behind the scenes photographs from their amazing career. Jim was kind enough to be one of these folks. He provided the photos from Disorganized Crime and Gang Related which are above, and as well as these gems from the set of Grimm set in our beloved Pacific Northwest below. Enjoy!

 

 


Sunday Matinee: The Workers Cup [Film]

“In 2022 Qatar will host the biggest sporting event in the world – the FIFA World Cup. But right now, far away from the bright lights, star athletes and adoring fans, migrant workers from Africa and Asia toil exceedingly long hours for scant salaries, and live isolated in labor camps which are by law kept outside city limits. By day they sweat to build the World Cup, but at night they compete in the “workers welfare” football tournament, playing in the same stadiums that will one day host the world’s greatest players.”

The very phrase I think of when I recollect on what I witnessed in this harrowing documentary, will always be “awe-inspiring”. Sadly, it has been my personal experience to learn that this is all far too common. The Workers Cup is a film that simply documents occurrences and atrocities that have been occurring throughout the world for so many years. Gigantic corporations and national governments (yes, the U.S. included in a HUGE way) have always found ways to exploit individuals from low-income backgrounds in order to have large scale projects (or operations) be completed whilst saving huge sums of profits by simply not considering these groups of people who flock to their projects not as human beings, but as “total man hours.” It’s a disturbing process, and can rightfully be argued that it is indeed modern day slavery.

There is something incredibly unique about The Workers Cup that has left me mesmerized. The use of a staged event like a football tournament in order to promote the “well-being” of the workers staged and trapped in these construction camps is saddening, to say the least. I could not help but draw modern day comparison to the acts of slave fighting portrayed in a film like Django Unchained, or the midnight dance routines put on my drunken slave masters in 12 Years A Slave. While not as directly oppressive, these are modern times and those at the top have found new and back door means of oppressing the poor who simply want to feel like humans. But where would we be as a society if we treated people fairly, refused to entrap them in labor camps where they are barely making enough money to provide for a family thousands of miles away? Where would we be as a world? Well, it is suffice to say that a few thousand people who hold the world’s wealth would not be very happy, so we must comply to their bullshit demands. This is reality. It is a sad reality. While the proles have the numbers, the wealthy have the means to protect themselves from the poor, and always will.

My only hope is that somebody will see The Workers Cup and actually be shocked by what they see. I can only imagine the plethora of people out there who have no idea what it entails to employ the construction of such high scale sporting events, or to have the back support to continue unending wars against nouns. Although, as I previously stated, there will be nothing done about it, and these conditions are never going to change, it is important to enlightened people to the atrocities of the world so that they may be able to look at the travesties and refrain from participating. Sadly, that is about all that our fellow proles of the world can really do.

Alas, the film is again, awe-inspiring. Each “employee” showcased in this film is an admirable one. They want nothing more that to live, provide…..and play football! They simply want to feel happiness and joy in something, when it seems as though there is only darkness all around them. I can not recommend The Workers Cup enough

For more information about the film, including dates, cities and theaters, go to TheWorkersCupFilm.com 

 

Candi Brooks [Interview]

Happy Friday All! Today we are sharing some words from a woman that I thought could be “pretty cool” to hear from, who happened to turn out to be an absolutely incredible person who we are so honored to have featured on the site! I love, love, love, when it works out like this! Yes, Candi Brooks is an amazing and inspirational actress, dancer, former casting director, and overall wonderful human being!

I first recognized Candi in one of the finest comedic films of the last ten years, a little film called 21 Jump Street (featuring our old pal Johnny Pemberton!). She was the young woman who was gently removed from your light pink VW bug during one of the most hilarious car chase scenes in cinematic history. She in turned actually helped save the day by stashing heat in her glove compartment. It was a hilarious scene, and I was excited to ask Candi all about it. And as it turned out, there happened to be so much to know and love about her!

Candi is also a long time resident of my favorite American city, which is obviously New Orleans. She joins the ranks of so many different folks we have featured on the site who call NOLA their home. Candi was kind enough to give us just a bit more insight into what it is like to work in the world of casting directing and acting in one of the greatest cities on the planet. And we are so damn grateful that she did!

So Ladies and Gentlemen, please allow me to shut my digital mouth, and introduce to you all the brilliant Candi Brooks!

When did first discover your passion for the world of performance? Was it something you grew up dreaming about, or did you just sort of find your way into it one day?

I began dancing at a young age (around 3 years old).  Tap, Jazz, Ballet, until later years I also took on Hip Hop, Pom Pom, Musical Theatre, Lyrical, Ethnic, & traditional Native American Jingle.  I adored being on the stage with the lights, sequins, makeup, and a captive audience!!  My years of dance continued until my early teen years where I auditioned for a Performing Arts High School in Georgia called Pebblebrook.  It was here I made the choice to begin studying drama instead of dance and the love has never stopped growing.  After High School I went on to earn a BFA in Musical Theatre from an amazing 4 year program at Brenau Womens College (shout out!) & Gainesville Theatre Alliance.  I then did summer stock under the direction of Broadway’s legendary Terrence Mann at The Lost Colony.  I took an internship at Actor’s Express and worked locally in Atlanta market until joining a National Tour of Peter Buffet’s all Native American cast as the lead female singer/dancer titled Spirit The Seventh Fire.  Once we lost funding on tour I wound up in Louisiana with zero ideas of what to do next.  I signed with a talent agent and began the transition of becoming a film/television actor.  In 2009 I took a 2 week job as a reader for Liz Coulon of Coulon Casting and 7 years later retired with dozens of shows under my belt as a Casting Asst & Associate having worked with some of the best!

Beyond the world of acting, you are also quite the acclaimed casting director in your neck of the proverbial and actual woods down in NOLA, along with our friends and your fellow performers  Laura Cayoutte, Joe Chrest, Ted Alderman, L. Michelle DeVito, and others. I am always curious to learn about film communities in areas that aren’t L.A. or NY. So in your experience, what is the film community like where you reside? What do you believe sets it apart from other communities?

Wow! *blushes* Thank you for such kindness.  Star studded list of folks you just rattled off there! 🙂  The film community here is deep rooted in folks that have been here since the beginning navigating every growth spurt our community has experienced (both in front of and behind the camera), as well as transplants (like myself) whom have moved here for work or otherwise and chosen to stay; and fairweather folks whom come in for the job and then are on to the next!  We are a melting pot of cultures, ethnicities, accents, & styles from street to street and neighborhood to neighborhood.  There is something for EVERYONE here and I think there is atleast one person whom represents all of these different vibes as well.  The majority of the actors here are hustlers, but this is not their entire being.  They are book readers, adventure seekers, parents, pet owners, travelers, & lovers of life!  We make great story tellers because we are living lives outside of the stories we’re telling on the screen & stage.  Other communities I’ve experienced only live for those experiences and so when they’re not acting they’re not fulfilled.

Candi Brooks as “50’s Hair” on the hit AMC series, Preacher.

You worked as a casting director and had a brief but hilarious bit of screen time in one of the greatest comedies in recent years, which would be 21 Jump Street. You were involved in the very intense car chase scene that is an absolute highlight of the film. So I am just curious what it was like to work on a set like this one? Was it as fun to work on as it was to watch?

One of the reasons I retired from casting was due to the conflict of interest.  SAG can fine a film a hefty chunk of change for putting a crew member  in a film.  In this circumstance I was the casting assistant on 21JS.  The hilarious & brilliantly talented Phil Lord & Chris Miller were directing.  I had the honor of being the reader opposite of all the actors both in their audition and callback.  Mid production they called Liz Coulon, C.S.A (local CD on the show) and said “we need a girl-We’re adding a scene on the bridge.  She should be attractive, great with improv, and not starstruck by Channing Tatum or Jonah Hill.  It works tomorrow”  Liz called in a handful of gals for and put them on tape to submit.  She asked me if I wanted to do it as well as a wild card and I said YES! of course!  She submitted the tapes to the guys and they called back with a resounding unanimous vote for me! 🙂  We’d worked together closely in the room for the callbacks so they knew the improv wouldn’t be an issue and I was delighted to take on the role.  We were quite literally “boxed in” on the Crescent City Connection with zero access to move about much once on the bridge.  Our staging area for the day was like a party bus where Channing, Jonah, & myself would wait when weren’t rolling.  I had an incredible time laughing and swapping stories with each of them off camera as well as creating/playing on camera as 90% of each take was improv.  I had no idea what (if anything) they’d keep in the film.

You worked on another project that is among one of my favorite films of all time, a darling sad tale known as Jeff Who Lives at Home. How was your experience working on this amazing film?

Woooooooow!  Excellent taste in films friend!  The Duplass Brothers (from Louisiana) are dynamite!  They were equally as amazing to work with as Phil & Chris.  These guys are incredible film makers and hands on directors!  I love that they share their vision but allow you to dream with them to make their vision a reality.

 

If you were handed the role of any famous woman in American history, who would you want it to be?

WHAT?!  How can I limit myself to telling only ONE story?!  That’s absolutely unfair; great question but absolutely unfair. *grumbles* No Pressure buuuuuuuuuut — Keely Smith; R.I.P.  Keely led an incredible life of passion and performance in her 89 years.  She was well known for her marriage to Louis Prima but theres an amazing story to be told there that I don’t feel anyone has highlighted.  She was less well known for her thoughts on feminism in the 50s and decades after, she was Native American, she was a victim of Domestic Violence but got out in a time when divorce was unheard of/unaccepted, and to a famous man nonetheless.  She took her joy of singing and performance to the next level developing a solo career and starring in multiple films, variety shows, & talk shows.  She was absolutely relevant up to the end and remains a powerful woman in my eyes.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

Freedom & Fulfillment!  I wear a myriad of hats but am always in search of these two things!  In addition to being an actor, I own my own business taping, coaching, & teaching actors at Brave Arrow Productions.  I am a Health Coach promoting Optimal Wellness in a healthy Body, Mind, Spirit, & Finances.  I’m also a wife, mom, and human!  I’d love for some love on all the social media LOL

IG, Twitter, FB : @thecandibrooks  @BraveArrowProductions or @Brave_Arrow_Productions

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My sweaty 6 year old son running into the dugout after his second ever game to give me a hug and thank me for helping him win!

Andy Cowan [Interview]



Today’s interview subject is a man who obviously knows what is hilarious. Andy Cowan has been in the business of comedy for over 40 years, and has been one of the creative minds behind so many projects that you know and love. He joins the ranks of several other folks we have had the pleasure of sharing some words from here at Trainwreck’d Society who also happened to write for one of the most beloved sitcoms all time known as Seinfeld. But Andy has had an immense amount of success behind just this one series as well. He is also one of the brilliant minds that brought us the irreverent and absolutely original series, 3rd Rock From The Sun. He also wrote for Cheers! The Merv Griffin Show! Seriously, the credits can go on and on!

And now Mr. Cowan has an absolutely incredible new book to share with you all. What lucky bastards you all are. It’s called Banging My Head Agains The Wall: A Comedy Writer’s Guide To Seeing Stars. It is an absolutely brilliant look into the world of comedy writing and show business in general. If you are somebody who even remotely considers yourself a fan of comedy in any form, you owe it to yourself to check out this amazing work of art.

So Ladies and Gentlemen, please enjoy some amazing words from the comedic legend himself, Mr. Andy Cowan!

When did you first decide that you wanted to work in the world of comedy? What initially drew you to this world?

Aside from very early influences as a kid like Laurel and Hardy, Jack Benny, Johnny Carson… and later Woody Allen and Albert Brooks, I was drawn to the MTM sitcoms during the ’70s… The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show… and a later offshoot of the MTM shows, Taxi, produced by some who’d written for MTM. I wrote several spec Taxi scripts that were well received. Another dip into the comedy pool was when I started doing standup in Philadelphia in ’76 during the early stages of the comedy club boom, before later moving to L.A. in ’78 and continuing to perform.

We have been fortunate enough to get some words from some of your fellow Seinfeld alum like Peter Mehlman, Steve Skrovan, and Marc Jaffe, because this is obviously a legendary program. That being said, in your own personal and obviously experienced opinion, what do you believe it is about Seinfeld that has continued to make it a staple in the world of comedic television?

As I say in my book… “The chemistry among the principles and natural rhythms…of the show were electrifying to me. You felt like you were palling around with living and breathing, organically funny characters.” Seinfeld was refreshingly devoid of the set-up, punch of so many sitcoms that continue to this day. The stories were most important. Also the show was brilliantly cast across the board, down to the guest stars and smaller parts. They had a naturally funny and slightly off feel to them, refreshingly different from the cookie cutter casting among a lot of network shows.

Another damn fine program you worked on was the truly unique hit series 3rd Rock From The Sun. I have to admit, when the show first aired, I never thought it would last. But it seems as though with some damn fine storytelling and character development, it has become a historic program as well! So again, in your personal opinion, what do you believe it is about 3rd Rock that set itself apart from other niche type sitcoms? What do you believe worked so well for this show to be such a hit?

John Lithgow was the big reason. He was such a great actor, so committed to the role and extremely likable. French Stewart, Kristen Johnston and Joseph-Gordon-Levitt (professional beyond his young age at the time) also went the extra mile. As I say in the book, I was drawn to shining a light on life through the fresh eyes of newly arrived extraterrestrials posing as humans. Everything would be brand new to them, and the actors helped the audience buy into the hook.

I understand you have a new book coming out soon that probably answers the questions I’ve already asked in much greater details. Can you tell us a bit about it? What made you decide it was time to get your story out into the world?

Banging My Head Against the Wall: A Comedy Writer’s Guide to Seeing Stars represents four years of writing about forty years of writing, performing and creating comedy from the ground up. Along with being the only writer associated with Cheers, Seinfeld and 3rd Rock from the Sun, I’m very proud of the myriad original creative projects… stand-up, half-hour comedies, sketch, talk, web/radio shows, comedy docuseries, single panel cartoons and comic strips that I get to share with readers. They’ll have a bird’s eye view of what it feels like to perform comedy on national television, take in industry pitching strategies and reactions back. Not to mention personal reflections from over fifty iconic celebrities I pre-interviewed during my first Hollywood job in the ’80s as a talent coordinator, writer and recurring performer on The Merv Griffin Show, including from Orson Welles’ pre-interview for his final appearance on the show, the day before he died. I structured the book to help the readers feel as if they go on the journey with me. The ups, the downs, persistence rising above daunting odds, and the uplifting message of hope I leave in the epilogue.

Speaking of “the opposite” of giving up, and still creatively flourishing after wandering the Southern California desert’s peaks and valleys all these years, I was happy to further drill down in my book on George Costanza’s opposite-winning method to the madness. I’d first reflected on doing everything the opposite in my own life before helping George grab onto the brass ring on Seinfeld in “The Opposite.” (Larry David, after whom George was reportedly patterned, once told me, “You are George.”)  As I illustrate in the book, to this day George’s epiphany is championed in art, economics and politics, and “the opposite” is also a recurring theme throughout the book in terms of comedy, as well as the twists and turns of show biz. It was a thrill to get to work with Jason Alexander many years after Seinfeld as a guest on my talk show pilot, in which we reenacted scenes from my first draft of “The Opposite.” That is just one of many creative project links readers can also visit within the book.

Because we love suspense and surprises around here, I feel compelled to ask: What do you feel will be the most surprising thing that readers are going to discover about the world of comedy writing from the book?

That when your creative juices are overflowing even though your resumé isn’t yet, you can muster up the audacity to hop a train to New York and arrange a phony meeting with Lorne Michaels at SNL. And in this era of classic TV reboots, readers will also get a kick out of discovering dozens of “new” Seinfeld stories I pitched on the show that never made it to air.

What else does the future hold for you? Anything else you would like to plug to our readers?

The book’s final chapter points to a new half-hour comedy docuseries project I co-created with Rich Ross and star in, the logical creative project Banging’s over 400 page journey leads to,The Lost Sessions with Andy Cowan. We worked hard on it, an inventive entry into the world of therapy with an accent on honest humor, a hint of pathos, and eking out therapy both in session and out in the 21st century world. Comedy veteran David Steinberg, an early champion of the show as mentioned in the book, will be meeting with me again to strategize about where we take it.

 

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Vocalizing and playing hand percussion with my jazz group in Los Angeles venues, a musical mission that’s been ongoing for over thirty years. And being dragged into an Arthur Murray Dance Studio (that happens to be in my building) two days ago by a lovely female instructor who noticed me walking by before teaching me a few quick Foxtrot steps. I hate dancing. I did the opposite!

Andy Cowan’s book Banging My Head Against The Wall: A Comedy Writer’s Guide To Seeing Stars will be available on June 28th. Find out more details HERE. And put in your pre-order on Amazon today!

Wanna reach out to the legend Andy Cowan himself? Well, he will allow you to do just that! Shoot him an e-mail at contact@andycowan.net today!